- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 30, 2011

The lure of the NBA was a major part of Maryland forward Jordan Williams‘ decision to declare for the NBA Draft without signing with an agent.

The league’s labor unrest is the impetus coach Gary Williams believes will have his star big man back in a Terrapins uniform next season.

“I fully expect Jordan to come back because of the lockout possibility,” Gary Williams said Wednesday. “No one knows anything about the draft right now except the NBA. They’re the guys that are going to draft their players. With a lockout as a possibility, it’ll be interesting to see how the process of the draft takes place. I know the NFL is going ahead with their draft, but the NBA, all sources I have are saying this could be a hockey-type situation [when the NHL wiped out much of the 2004-05 season with a lockout].”

Jordan Williams, who announced Tuesday that he would enter the draft, has until May 8 to decide whether to remain in school or pursue a professional career.

Williams averaged 16.9 points and 11.8 rebounds for Maryland, which finished 19-14 and did not participate in the postseason. He is the second ACC sophomore since Tim Duncan and Joe Smith in 1995 to average a double-double (Wake Forest’s Al-Farouq Aminu in 2010 was the other).

Still, the NBA’s labor situation ensures there is no certainty for this year’s draft class to make money during their first seasons as professionals. The NBA’s collective bargaining agreement expires June 30, which could send current pros searching for opportunities elsewhere.

“The fringe guys in the NBA have car payments, house payments,” Gary Williams said. “They have to make some money. If you’re only making $700,000 and you’re paying off two houses, you need $700,000. So they’re going to go to Europe and get that. All of a sudden for college guys thinking that’s an option, it might not be an option for next year. Each year is different.”

It’s also little secret Jordan Williams would be crucial to Maryland’s success next season. The Terps did not play in a postseason tournament for the first time since 1993 and lose forward Dino Gregory to graduation.

Should Williams depart, Maryland’s frontcourt would likely include holdovers James Padgett, Hauk Palsson and Berend Weijs (none of whom averaged more than 3.3 points or 10.1 minutes last season), redshirt freshman Ashton Pankey and newcomer Martin Breunig.

Gary Williams said Pankey, who redshirted last season after undergoing leg surgery, likely will be cleared to participate in basketball activities within six weeks. Breunig committed to Maryland in February and is expected to join the program during the spring signing period. Still, Jordan Williams would make that group vastly more imposing if he remains in College Park.

“He’s certainly a big component of next year, but there’s a lot of things we have to look at in terms of young players, in terms of new players coming in and how that’s going to work,” Gary Williams said.

This isn’t the first early entry situation the longtime coach has faced. Joe Smith (1995), Steve Francis (1999) and Chris Wilcox (2002) were all lottery picks, while Greivis Vasquez explored turning pro in 2009 before opting to stay at Maryland for his senior season.

Gary Williams plans to have discussions with his contacts in the NBA in the coming weeks, and said he’s already had several conversations with Jordan Williams and his parents about the draft process.

“He’s just like a lot of players,” the coach said. “There’s this thing out there now where they feel like they have to go through this process. It’s like being recruited, almost. You have to go through the process. Hopefully, he does it the right way.”

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